PPA checking Russian and Ukrainian citizens more thoroughly on border
The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) ramped up border control on the Latvia and Finnish borders on Monday to get a better overview of the movements of Ukrainian and Russian citizens.
"In addition to the Estonia-Russia border, we will be running more thorough checks of Ukrainian and Russian citizens leaving Estonia for Latvia or Finland November 14-20. We want to get a better overview of how many refugees and Russian citizens remain in Estonia and how many move on to other countries," Egert Belitšev, director of the PPA for border guard, told ERR on Tuesday.
He said that the PPA is using additional police and border guard officers for more thorough checks.
Asked about activities this entails, Belitšev said that the PPA is checking all buses and vans leaving Estonia to compare the information of Ukrainian and Russian citizens coming to Estonia and those leaving. The police will also be comparing ship passengers' data to border statistics.
The PPA uses an automatic license plate recognition system to check which vehicles with Ukrainian and Russian plates to have arrived in Estonia have left again.
The checks are being conducted near the Latvian border. "For example, we are pulling over vehicles with Ukrainian and Russian plates when they approach the border and checking people's information," Belitšev said.
Estonian citizens and those of other countries will not be asked to provide information or additional documentation. However, the checks mean crossing the border could take longer this week, prompting the Ministry of Internal Affairs to ask for patience from people.
Interior minister: We want a better overview of arrivals
"We sport the minimal threat level in internal security, and we are not repulsing or driving off refugees. However, we want to make sure that people who want to stay here let us know so we can offer them the necessary aid and services while maintaining a precise overview. It is in the state's interests but mostly in those of the refugees themselves," Minister of Internal Affairs Lauri Läänemets said via a press release.
He added that today's low risk level would not merit restoring border control on a more extensive level.
The minister said that the additional checks do not currently require major reorganization of the police's work. "The current plan does not cause us to pull resources away from other tasks, such as rapid response units," Läänemets said.
Veiko Kommusaar, the ministry's undersecretary for internal security, said that Estonia has taken other measures before, such as visa restrictions for Russian citizens, spot checks in border regions, more thorough checks on the eastern border and police control on Schengen borders.
"These measures and less traffic on the border has made it possible to run more thorough checks and manage cross-border traffic risks. The aim of these activities is to collect more information on the movement of people who have been allowed to enter the country after thorough checks," he remarked.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski